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Rules of the Library, Merton College, Oxford, 1484


In 2013 I acquired a broadside issued by the Press of the Woolly Whale, New York, in 1939.  This reprinted in a rather elegant manner the Rules of the Library Made in the second year of Richard III and the third of the Wardenship of Warden [Richard] Fitzjames, November 3, 1484. The rules were translated from the Latin register of Merton College, Oxford. The 1939 broadside stated that "Every member of the college was required to take an oath on admission, that he would obey these rules."

I. When admitted to the use of the books contained in the Library, you shall, so far as the frailty of man permits, do no damage to any book, either by handling it roughly or by tearing out its pages, but you should handle the books in a seemly fashion and keep them from all harm.

II. Likewise you shall neither privily nor openly remove any book which is confined to the Library for the use of members of the college. If you know of any book or books so removed by any person, you shall, so soon as you fairly can after the offense has been committed and become known to you Expose the offender by giving his name to the Warden, or in his absence, to the Sub-Warden.

III. Likewise, if you happen to bring Visitors to the Library you shall so far as in you lies see to it that the college does not, from the introduction of such visitors, suffer any loss by the theft of books or parts of them.

IV. Likewise, if you happen to lose the Key of the Library, and cannot find it again within four-and-twenty hours, you shall then without further delay, report the loss of the Key to the Warden, or, in his absence, to the Sub-Warden.

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